Comparison of an early and normal weaning management system on cow and calf performance while grazing endophyte-infected tall fescue pastures

C. L. Schultz, D. G. Ely, D. K. Aaron, B. T. Burden, J. Wyles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


A 3-yr study used 16 cows and their spring-born calves (yr 1) and 48 first-calf heifers (yr 2, n = 24; yr 3, n = 24) and their spring-born calves in a completely randomized design. All cows and heifers were Angus x Beefmaster, and calves were sired by Angus bulls. Cow-calf pairs were assigned randomly to one of two management systems: 1) an early-weaning system, in which steer and heifer calves were weaned at 108 d of age and fed a postweaning growing diet (EW), or 2) a normal weaning system, in which calves were weaned at 205 d without supplementation (NW). Before early weaning and within each management system, calves and their dams were maintained in two 1.4-ha, endophyte-infected tall fescue pastures for 35 d (yr 1) or 14 d (yr 2 and 3). Early-weaned calves and cow-calf pairs were then randomly allotted to 1.4-ha, endophyte-infected tall fescue pastures with two (yr 1) or three (yr 2 and 3) calves or cow-calf pairs per pasture (four pastures per management system). Cow weights and BCS changes and calf gains were measured from early to normal weaning. Dietary intakes and nutrient digestibilities by EW and NW calves were determined during two periods of yr 1 and three periods of yr 2 and 3. Total gains and BCS changes were greater (P < 0.01) for cows that produced EW calves in all years. Calf ADG from early to normal weaning did not differ (P = 0.32). Similar to ADG, BW of calves at normal weaning were not different (P = 0.11). Forage intake was greater (P < 0.01) by NW calves during Periods 2 and 3 of yr 1 and Periods 1 and 2 of yr 2 and 3; however, total DM and CP intakes were greater (P < 0.01) for EW calves in Periods 2 and 3 of each year. Intakes of NDF tended (P = 0.11) to be greater by EW calves across all years. Estimates of CP and NDF digestibilities were higher (P < 0.01) for EW calves during yr 1 and 2; however, all components of the diet consumed by NW calves in yr 3 were more digestible (P < 0.05) than those consumed by EW calves. These results show the condition of cows with EW calves was improved by early weaning and gains by calves weaned at 108 d to pasture plus a commercial grower diet were comparable to those by calves continuing to nurse dams until weaned at 205 d.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)478-485
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2005


  • Calves
  • Early Weaning
  • Gain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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